Saturday, February 22, 2014

Drug Testing Pool (not fun like 'Swimming Pool')

My first contact with USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) happened the day before the World Championship in the Netherlands. David and I were in the team hotel business lounge reading. I was quaking with fear because I had just been locked into the hotel restroom (which had three access doors to pass through until you were in the inner sanctum of it—for the most heroic level of bathroom seclusion I have ever encountered; it was like Narnia.)

In any case, the innermost door got jammed. Ultrarunners aren’t known for their excessive corpulence, so I couldn’t exactly thrust it open. My best bet would be to use my endurance to widdle the door down with my body over time by repeatedly running at it, and that could take years. So there I was, safe inside of the triple-door Narnia bathroom where no one could hear my screams. I did scream.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow my underdeveloped noodle arms did get the door open. I thank God for that.

I ran out of the restroom shaking and alive, like I had just been given a second chance at life and this would be my renaissance (my run-aissance). That was when the USADA woman started calling my name and said I needed to come with her for a pre-competition drug test. I asked her if I could bring my book and my husband. The four of us (USADA agent, me, husband, and book) piled into a tiny car and headed to the drug-testing area.

I honestly didn’t mind the drug-testing because I found it to be of some sociological interest, except for the fact that they took a bit of my blood, and I was counting on using it in the race the next day.
Parade in matching outfits (basically my dream come true)

The following day was the Championship. Nearing the end of the 24-hour, I pushed as hard as I could until the horn sounded, completely oblivious to everything that was happening around me. I turned around and realized a woman had been following me on her bicycle. As I sat down, she approached me and told me I would again have to go for a performance-enhancement drug test. I always love a good test. (This is a nerd problem.) I went. I was unenhanced.

Drug Testing Pool (not fun like ‘Swimming Pool’)

I thought all of this was behind me after that day, but every year, USADA selects a batch of athletes to include in the International Testing Pool. These athletes have to record their whereabouts on a weekly basis, including a 60-minute daily time frame when they will periodically be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancers. It keeps the sport honest. Ostensibly, the top-performing athletes are more likely to be taking drugs because they are standing out in some significant way, so this is a good thing. I personally don’t want to race against people who are physiological cheaters.

Hypothetically, though: It doesn’t really matter if you barely have the fortitude to open a bathroom door.

I just wish there were a second testing option: I could either 1) take a blood test, or 2) show them how bad I am at pushups. 

A Discourse on Drugs


I don’t even like alcohol. My second grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Beer. I thought beer was a curse word, so I called her Mrs. Bear all year long. These days, I'm no better. Every Sunday at church, I receive holy communion, and when I drink the wine, my face involuntarily scrunches up because I hate the taste. The pastor must think I'm the loveliest girl, always making faces at a holy sacrament. I even wrote a term paper at Yale on the negative ramifications of performance enhancers on human dignity concerns in sport. I have philosophical qualms. So really, this is a poetic injustice in my life.

But here we go. I’m not sure what this will be like. The best part about running is being free and challenging myself to try difficult, unexpected things. And I like prepositional running (before things, between things, after things; fitting in running when I can), so my locations are a bit unpredictable. I don’t like the idea of having to report my whereabouts. Also, I am pretty sure girls are supposed to be mysterious like Jane Eyre, and now I’m always on the map. Alas, I can never be whimsical and elusive.

In other news, I'm training a lot. I rarely talk about it on my blog because it is probably assumed. Since RR50, I’ve been including more pace runs, core work, and plyometrics, and I feel stronger and more consistent than I have in a while. It’s exciting. Track season has also started up again! It is a joyful thing to be reunited with my runners. Here we go, Falcons.  


Monday, February 10, 2014

Rocky Raccoon 50-Miler 2014

Fast Facts:
Race: Rocky Raccoon 50-Miler
Location: Huntsville State Park, Texas
Concerns: 1) Alligators, 2) The two troops of Boy Scouts looking for alligators, and 3) Not pacing myself correctly
Results: 1st Female, 3rd Overall. 7:06
Significance: None on any real cosmic scale, but I was happy to race something shorter than a day.
Post-race with Nicole Studer, winner of RR100 last week!
Race Summary:

Friday was exciting because one of my students lost a tooth in his Cheese-Its, and I had to demand that he find it and put it into his pocket. Also, everyone was still buzzing from the excitement of the Science Fair the day before. After school let out, David and I did a tune-up run, packed our bags, and headed to Huntsville. At our hotel, we set our alarm clocks for 4:20 a.m. then watched some of the Olympics opening ceremonies. I fell into a shallow sleep and dreamed that my student’s tooth was liberated in the washing machine and bit through all of his sweaters.

Leaving our hotel room, the hallways were full of other Rocky Raccooners scurrying at a frenetic pace. Ah, my people.

I picked up my race number, and saw Karen Kantor (smiling, of course) on my way to the starting line. Liza Howard was directing, so I sought her out at the start and she told me about the course conditions. I stretched, had brief reunions with Team RWB trail camp friends, and said goodbye to David. We were called to the line, and the gun went off.

The Course

The race is split into three 16.67-mile loops. There is a mix of climbing and descents, though nothing crazy; this is Texas. If you followed any of the coverage from last week’s RR100, you know that much of the terrain is covered in roots—unproblematic when you’re lucid, vexing when you’re fatigued. In the morning, racing by headlamp before the sun comes up, this means you have to dorsiflex your feet a little, leaning back on your heels so your toes don’t get caught under hidden roots.

There are also lots of open trails, surrounded by loblolly pines (a.k.a. my favorite type of tree). These areas are flat and fast. The trails were a little muddy when we began and grew progressively more sodden loop after loop. It wasn’t terrible, though.  Anyway, it’s hard to have a terrible time with Tejas Trails—whatever the condition—because the people are incredible. The aid station volunteers…there are no words. Texas knows its hospitality.

The Race

This was my first race of the season and my first 50-miler in years. I’ve had lockjaw on the 24-hour for a while. When I started running ultras in college fresh off of running 3Ks on the track, I began with the 100-mile distance. Shortly after, I discovered the 24-hour event, which I really enjoyed because they are tidy and repetitious, so I stuck with them. I ran MMTR50 in 2007 and have run a few 50Ks as tune-up events, but I've never given those events my sustained attention. Fifty milers are not within my cultivated skill set. I want to change that. This year, I want to get fast. This race was a good early season gut check.

I aimed to keep my laps at a fairly even pace. Most of lap one was in the dark. I ran faster than I intended to (2:16) because running in the dark feels like a treat. In the early miles, the masses had not yet separated out, so there was a lot of talking, like a mobile meet-and-greet. In the middle of the lap, I fell off a bridge (a small bridge of Lilliputian dimensions that I could have stepped over entirely). But the impact woke me up, and I felt great.

16.67 miles.

Lap two was more of the same. I wasn’t sure if I was running fast enough or holding back, so I set my sights ahead and tried to pick off some of the boys. I used the open sections to accelerate, and I made more friends.

33.34 miles

On lap three, Boy Scouts were ubiquitous. I was having a hard time believing that it was almost done. It's kind of awesome. You can run a 50-miler in the morning, and be grading papers and grocery shopping in the evening like nothing ever happened. David handed me my iPod. I had it pre-set to an Al Mohler free market economics podcast, and I switched it off. It’s funny how you decide things ahead of time, like, “This will be for your own good, Sabrina. You need to know these things.” And then you’re 40 miles into a run, and you say NOT A CHANCE to yourself. I listened to pop teen girl music, no apologies.

50 miles 

And then it was over. All I can say is that I love Team RWB and Tejas Trails, and I love 50 milers. I look forward to doing more! And I'm eager to do track work, strength building, and pace runs--whatever it takes to improve in this distance. Thanks, DryMax socks, for keeping my feet safe in the mud! Thank you everyone who volunteered at the aid stations. Thanks Liza! Thanks Joe and Joyce! And thank you David, Kaky, and Louie for crewing for me. I had a fun day.